After taking righthander Mick Abel out of high school in Portland, Ore., with their first selection, the Phillies later used their third-round pick to continue to add high-upside talent to their system. This time, they chose Arkansas shortstop Casey Martin, one of the toolsiest players in the college class.
Martin has long had questions surrounding his hit tool, but the Phillies were happy to take a chance that their player-development team could help him become a more consistent hitter without sacrificing any of his other gifts.
“Casey’s an exciting, quick-twitch athlete who is just full of tools,” Phillies scouting director Brian Barber said on a Friday-morning Zoom call. “Any time we’re going to be able to add a middle-of-the-field player who’s played at a high level in the SEC with a tremendous speed and power combination like Casey has, we’re going to be in.
“We didn’t think Casey had any chance of getting to us when the day started, and we didn’t have any intention of letting him get by us when that opportunity presented itself.” Martin, who ranked No. 38 on the Baseball America 500, and has four potentially plus tools in his speed, power, arm and defense. Before the draft, scouting directors ranked him the third fastest runner in the college class, as well as the fourth-best athlete.
Those raw tools, however, need a bit of polish. The raw power comes with a big strikeout rate (nearly 23 percent over two seasons and the 15 games from the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season). He can make exciting plays at shortstop, but defensive inconsistencies could push him elsewhere on the diamond. He’s got exceptional speed, but stole just 18 bases during his time with Arkansas.
Martin got off to a bit of a slow start in 2020, which the Phillies believe can be partially attributed to surgery he’d had in the offseason.
“Casey had hamate bone surgery in the fall of this past year, so he really, in our conversations with him, and we had several with him leading up to the draft this year, as (a reason) he got off to a slow start this year, in 2020,” Barber said. “It’s obviously an issue that we’ve talked about with him.”
The questions about his defensive chops, plus his excellent speed, could eventually push him to another position, possibly center field or shortstop. That move could also be accelerated by the presence of Bryson Stott (the Phillies’ 2019 first-rounder) and Luis Garcia already at the system’s lower levels.
“We believe in Casey’s ability to play shortstop,” Barber said. “We also believe in his ability to be versatile on the field, so are there opportunities that will present themselves where he plays second base, third base, center field? I think he has the ability to do those things, but we also believe in Casey’s ability to play shortstop.”
In the fourth round, the Phillies took South Florida’s Carson Ragsdale, a massive righthander with a limited track record. He sports a three-pitch mix that includes a low-90s fastball, a solid-average curveball and a developing changeup.
Phillies area scout Bryce Harman liked what he saw from Ragsdale early in the year, and the team believes there’s more development to come.
“We saw Carson up to 96 mph this spring with a quality curveball that generates heavy swing-and-miss,” Barber said. “Carson’s a good athlete who went to school originally as a two-way player and was really just in his first year concentrating solely on pitching, so we were really excited to be able to draft him as well.”
To close their draft, the Phillies grabbed a big bopper from the south in Georgia Tech outfielder Baron Radcliff. His raw power was among the best available in the draft but, like Martin, that thump comes with considerable strikeout concerns.
“Baron actually had Division I scholarship offers to go play quarterback in college before he decided to concentrate on baseball,” Barber said. “I think the thing that really stuck out to us at that point in the draft is that Baron has some of the best bat speed and power out of anybody in the entire draft. We know Baron well. We love the makeup. We love the athlete. We love bat speed and power combinations.”
Before ending the Zoom call, Barber made sure to note that the team’s draft was done in memory of Will Brunson, the team’s area scout in South Texas who died of a heart attack in November.